November 20, 2008

Pac-10: Scramble for bowl eligibility begins

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Pac-10 teams won't be home for the Holiday, but they may not be at the Poinsettia, Hawaii or even Emerald bowls.

Yes, it has been a dismal season in the Pac-10. In fact, it has been so bad that the conference might fail to supply teams to at least two of the seven bowls with which it has a tie-in.

Teams are required to post six victories to qualify for bowl games. But with the season winding down, two teams Washington and Washington State, which have combined for one victory already are out of the mix. Stanford, UCLA and Arizona State are in danger of falling short.

Stanford (5-6) has the best chance to qualify. The Cardinal needs only to beat California this weekend in "The Big Game." But Stanford will be left out of the postseason for the seventh consecutive year if Cal prevails.

Qualifying will be even more difficult for UCLA and Arizona State; both are 4-6 and play each other Nov. 28. The loser is eliminated from bowl consideration, and the winner might be the following week. UCLA closes the regular season against USC, while Arizona State finishes at Arizona. So, the winner of the UCLA-Arizona State game would still need to pull off an upset to get into a bowl.

Should all three fail to become eligible, the Hawaii and Poinsettia bowls, which match Pac-10 teams against opponents from the WAC and Mountain West, will have to look elsewhere for teams. Should Oregon State win out, it will go to the Rose Bowl, while USC assuming it wins out likely would get a BCS at-large berth.

In that case, the Emerald Bowl, which is contracted to match a Pac-10 member against an ACC opponent, also would be forced to look elsewhere for a team.

Washington at Washington State, 3 p.m.
Stanford at California, 3:30 p.m.
Oregon State at Arizona, 7 p.m.
  • Player to watch
  • Stanford RB Toby Gerhart. He has rushed for 1,033 yards and needs 52 more to surpass the school's single-season rushing record of 1,084 yards, set by Tommy Vardell in 1991. The Cardinal is hopeful he can get at least 48 more than that against Cal. Gerhart has exceeded 100 yards rushing in four of Stanford's five victories, and he was hurt early in the other. A productive game by Gerhart would enhance the Cardinal's chances of knocking off rival Cal and gaining bowl eligibility.

  • Best matchup
  • Arizona run offense vs. Oregon State run defense. The Wildcats have rushed for 516 yards and 11 touchdowns in the past two games. In their six victories, the Wildcats have averaged 213.5 rushing yards and had an individual exceed 100 yards in five of them. RBs Nic Grigsby and Keola Antolin, who have combined for 1,339 yards and 20 touchdowns, will challenge an Oregon State defense that ranks second in the Pac-10 against the run. SS Greg Laybourn and LB Keaton Kristick head a unit that has held its past five opponents to 101 rushing yards or less. The Beavers won all five of those games.

  • Who's hot
  • The Rodgers brothers of Oregon State are on a roll. Freshman TB Jacquizz Rodgers has rushed for 1,233 yards in 10 games and projects to become the first freshman to ever lead the Pac-10 in rushing. He has exceeded 100 yards in seven of the past eight games. Meanwhile, older brother James Rodgers scored two touchdowns in last week's victory over California. One was via an 86-yard kickoff return. Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli passed for 298 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 89 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-45 victory over Arizona. Arizona sophomore TE Rob Gronkowski set career-highs with 12 catches for 143 yards in last week's loss to Oregon. Though Gronkowski missed the first three games of the season with mononucleosis, he is tied with USC's Patrick Turner for the Pac-10 lead in touchdown receptions with eight.

  • Who's not
  • Washington committed five turnovers in last week's loss to UCLA. That marked the third consecutive game in which the Huskies committed at least three turnovers. Washington State managed only 7 rushing yards in last week's loss to Arizona State. That marked the seventh consecutive game in which the Cougars rushed for fewer than 100 yards. Not surprisingly, Washington State ranks 116th in the nation in rush offense. UCLA QB Kevin Craft threw three interceptions in last week's victory over Washington and has been picked off nine times in the past three games. During that span, Craft has completed just over half of his attempts (50-of-99) and has not thrown a touchdown pass. Craft has thrown 16 interceptions and only seven touchdown passes this season.

  • What they're saying
  • "It could really wash away a lot of bitter taste in our mouths. It would clearly help, there's no question about that." Washington State coach Paul Wulff, whose 1-10 team plays 0-10 Washington in the annual Apple Cup game

    "Is one win greater than zero? My answer would be yes. And when it's the Apple Cup, I would say 'Yes, yes.' It makes a huge difference." Washington coach Tyrone Willingham

    "The thing about having that in the back of our minds we hunger for it. We want it so bad, and we know what we have to do to get there." Oregon State QB Lyle Moevao, on the Beavers' quest to reach the Rose Bowl

    "With most guys, if you look good, you play good. It's a different mentality when you look nice." Oregon WR Jaison Williams on the all-black uniforms, including helmets, the Ducks wore in last week's win over Arizona

  • Etc.
  • Arizona's Antolin, a true freshman, equaled a school record with four rushing touchdowns in last week's loss to Oregon. UCLA G Sonny Tevega is expected to be reinstated this week after sitting out a week because coach Rick Neuheisel questioned his commitment. Arizona State's 31-0 shutout of Washington State last week marked the first time the Sun Devils held an opponent scoreless since a 19-0 shocker over top-ranked Nebraska in 1996. The Sun Devils' defense has scored a touchdown in three consecutive games. California TB Jahvid Best has scored four touchdowns of at least 65 yards this season. Oregon RB LeGarrette Blount has 15 rushing touchdowns, which ties a single-season school record. Stanford starting LB Pat Maynor is questionable for this week's game against Cal because of a knee contusion. Arizona ran 98 plays against Oregon last week, the most by a league team this season. Arizona State QB Rudy Carpenter has started 41 consecutive games, the longest current streak for a quarterback in the nation.

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    Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for He can be reached at

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